My wife and I, both Baby Boomers, just became grandparents. My son Clark and his lovely Alexis had a beautiful baby girl named Olive. They named her Olive because she was conceived in Italy in an area where they make olive oil.
Baby names are so creative today. When I was a kid, most of the girls in school were named Susan, Linda, Sharon, Nancy, Janet, Robin, Debbie, Ellen, Julie or Jill.
The only Olive I knew was Olive Oil, Popeye’s girlfriend.
To say we live in a different world today is to repeat one of life’s most oft-cited clichés. But we live in a different world today. Selecting names isn’t the only thing different about parenting in the 21 st century.
Keeping Baby Safe
We couldn’t wait to meet Baby Olive. We live in Chicago and the kids in New York so all we saw the first two months were pictures. I particularly wanted to make sure Olive had hands. In all the pictures, she wore mittens. I was told later it was so she wouldn’t scratch herself with her fingernails.
I can’t imagine my parents worrying about this. If I scratched myself, my mom would just put Mercurochrome on it. This stuff had enough mercury to actually be called Mercurochrome! My parents also smoked in the house, didn’t know a carbohydrate from a carburetor, and let me ride my tricycle by myself to the five-and-dime to buy candy at the age of three. Somehow I survived this.
Some toys we played with as kids would make product-liability attorneys’ heads spin today. My favorite was King Zor, a battery-powered dinosaur that you shot with darts and it returned fire by spitting plastic projectiles back at you.
We wanted to bring Olive some gifts when we visited since we hadn’t been with her at Christmas time. We couldn’t find King Zor. We got her books instead.
There was no such thing as a “baby carrier” when we Boomers were infants. Our baby carrier was called Mommy.
Today they have fancy backpacks designed to hold babies. They free Mom’s arms and provide more back support. Of course, the baby can’t actually be carried on your back until it is a year old. First it must sit in an inner pouch facing inward until five months. Then it can face outward until it can be carried on your back.
Hey, those baby carrier rules don’t just benefit Mommy. They also are supposed to be good for our grandchildren. There are a lot more rules in general today when it comes to parenting. They are based on years of research. You are freed from the burden of having to decide on your own what makes sense.
Similar rules exist for car seats – when the baby should face in, out and so on. They had car seats when our kids were little but they’re fancier now. You need an engineering degree or must be a Millennial to figure them out. Olive’s has a separate base that you secure first (in the back of course) and the seat attaches to that. There are different settings based on age and weight. It has something called a “level indicator” and a “five-point, front-adjust harness.”
I don’t recall ever seeing a car seat when I was a kid. Our cars didn’t even have seat belts.
Diaper bags now come in his or hers. We’re talking the parents, not the baby. His diaper bag looks more like a laptop bag than a purse. Hers looks something like a bag Mary Poppins would carry. Olive’s diaper bag was unisex with many compartments, each with a specific purpose. There were compartments for wipes, cell phone, water bottle, sippy cups, bibs, food, keys, changing pad …
Clark and Alexis gave us a brief tour of the diaper bag before they went out and left us to baby sit. The only thing we couldn’t find was diapers.
Baby monitors today are little closed-circuit TV systems. You can see the baby on a wireless screen, TV, phone, tablet, laptop or computer. When our kids were little we used those Fisher Price monitors that let you hear the baby upstairs if you were downstairs.
When we were little, our parents monitored us by checking in on us every so often – and not all that often.
If our parents had these technologies they’d probably have used them too. It’s about making sure your kids know they’re loved and putting them first. That’s what our parents did, what we did, and what our kids are doing today.
At the end of our visit, I had to tell Clark how proud I was of him. It seems like only yesterday that he was a baby and now he’s a dad, and a good one.
“Parenting is the hardest job there is, Clark,” I told him. “It’s also the most important.”
That, my friends, will never change.
Read the book: NOW They Make It Legal: Reflections of an Aging Baby Boomer by Howard Harrison
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